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Reports of a toxic work environment have plagued Vice President Kamala Harris since she took up the post less than a year ago and the recently announced exodus of her chief spokesperson has only prompted more questions.
The White House said this week that senior adviser to the vice president and chief spokesperson Symone Sanders will be departing the vice president’s office by year’s end.
Vice President Kamala Harris speaks to members of the press as her press secretary Symone Sanders looks on at Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport before she boards Air Force Two to return to Washington, D.C., June 14, 2021 in Greer, South Carolina. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images) (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
“I love Symone, and I can’t wait to see what she will do next, and I know that it’s been a, you know, it’s been three years of a lot of jumping on and off planes and going around the country, and she works very hard, and I can’t wait to see what she’ll do next, and I mean that sincerely,” Harris told reporters this week.
But the vice president declined to comment when she was pressed on whether Sander’s departure was a part of a great internal shakeup.
“Well, I’ve told you how I feel about Symone. Next question,” Harris said.
Fox News contributor Joe Concha on Saturday called Harris’ office a “sinking ship” during commentary on Sanders’ departure.
“I guess when your boss’ approval ratings are at 28% and she’s polling even lower on her number one job, the U.S. southern border where migrants continue to flow over, two million passing over this year. I guess I would leave too, because this is a sinking ship,” said Concha.
Sanders’ decision to leave the vice president’s office not only raised eyebrows because she is the second high-level staffer to announce her bid farewell in less than a month, but because the spokesperson was previously harsh on vice president dropouts.
Following reports of low morale in Harris’ office this summer, Sanders defended the reportedly toxic workplace and called individuals who anonymously spoke to the press “cowards.”
NEW YORK, NY – SEPTEMBER 23: Symone Sanders speaks onstage during Global Citizen Week: At What Cost? at The Apollo Theater on September 23, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images for Global Citizen) (Getty Images)
“People are cowards to do this, this way,” she told Politico in July. “We are not making rainbows and bunnies all day. What I hear is that people have hard jobs, and I’m like, ‘welcome to the club,’” Sanders said.
“We have created a culture where people, if there is anything anyone would like to raise, there are avenues for them to do so,” she added.
News that Ashley Etienne, Harris’ communications director, had resigned was also announced just one week before Thanksgiving. In addition, reports have surfaced this week that two other communications staffers – Peter Velz and Vince Evans – are also leaving Harris’ team, but those reports have not been confirmed by the White House.
Vice President Kamala Harris waves as she departs after speaking at the Tribal Nations Summit in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus, Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
White House officials maintain that the departures of several staffers does not signal that Harris is a bad boss.
Press secretary Jen Psaki said the White House has a history of seeing departures by high-level staffers and described the work as “grueling” when she was pressed by reporters on the work environment in the vice president’s office.
“Working on a presidential campaign…and working in the first year of a White House is exciting and rewarding, but it is also grueling and exhausting,” Psaki told reporters this week. “It’s all of those things at once.”
Fox News could not immediately reach the White House for comment.